Even though we weren’t in daily contact, I still considered Staci* a close friend. We had known each other since fourth grade and had been emotional intimates since then. We lived down the street from each other in our suburban neighborhood, and had sleepovers, campfires, parties — the usual things girls do. We shared clothes and confidences, and she was routinely invited to my family’s lake house for weeks in the summer.
As we got older, she went through some difficulties with her parents and left home for a while. I worried about her, but when she returned, we took up as if nothing had changed. After living together in a west coast city, she moved on to pursue a degree from a midwestern institute, while I became romantically involved with a man I worked with.
Our lives took different paths. I had a baby, and my relationship with the father didn’t work out; I enrolled in college as a single mom, eventually earning my degree and getting a corporate job. Staci married a professional and moved out of state.
My beloved father died in 2000, and we saw each other at his funeral for a few hours, during which she seemed snappish and impatient. We saw less of each other after that, but we still spoke with some frequency.
I was struggling to provide my daughter and myself with a decent life, and Staci was living in relative comfort in another state. Our lives were very different, but I thought we retained the core of our connection, one of shared values and mutual affection.
Almost a decade later, she invited us to her home for a holiday gathering, which my daughter refused to attend. I hadn’t seen her for a while, and she seemed a little different, but I chalked it up to the stress of the occasion, although a lot of the guests, myself included, assisted with the setup, serving and clean-up. Staci seemed to have a need to dominate me that day, giving me orders to make appetizers and mix drinks. I complied out of common courtesy but was somewhat bewildered by her authoritarian attitude.
A few months later, I was surfing the web and googled Staci’s name. I was pleased to see she had created a blog, and I immediately started reading.
One of her entries was simply titled "The SoandSos" — a pseudonym for my family — in which she scathingly criticized me, my late mother, and my family’s lifestyle, habits and general existence in an overtly demeaning way.
She reserved especial vitriol for my appearance, which she likened to a female Quasimodo. She implied I had mental problems as well.
Then, she went into detail about the aforementioned holiday dinner and how I hadn’t performed the duties of a bartender to her satisfaction, even though I had never been informed that was to be my role that day.
But the one thing that enraged me was how she referred to my daughter as having "a vacant expression." She hadn’t seen my daughter since my father’s funeral, almost 10 years before. At that time I didn’t recall Staci interacting with my daughter at all, except to convey by attitude and body language that she considered her a nuisance.
I was shaking with anger. Aside from how close we had been growing up, we had lived together for months in our early twenties, two singles in the big city, sharing adventures. I thought she had respected and cared for me and been the sister I never had. Instead, apparently, she had been shamelessly mocking behind my back.
I immediately shot off an email to her, stating that I had read her blog and was extremely angry about it and no longer considered her a friend. I heard nothing back for a few days until a mutual acquaintance intervened on her behalf, emailing to say Staci didn’t mean it and was sorry.
“Bullshit,” I remember saying to myself. “She’s sorry I found it, and that’s all.”
She never personally apologized for what she wrote. I emailed her my forgiveness, out of curiosity more than anything else, to see what she would say, if anything. I got some disjointed reply with a reference to a hymn.
It’s been a few years since all of this happened. I haven’t seen her again and have no desire to. I include her on my mass Christmas card email list, and I got a strange reply one year, about how she remembers the lake.
This entire incident has made me wary of forming new relationships. I had considered myself intelligent and perceptive, yet I had totally misread Staci and how dangerous she was to my emotional well-being. The fact that she would blithely and with such spiteful condescension write about me and my family and then take no responsibility for it gave me chills. The fact that she possessed no talent as a writer was cold comfort. She did take the blog post down, but obviously the damage had been done.
I look at her Facebook profile sometimes, although we aren’t friends on Facebook; we know a lot of the same people, having grown up together. I sometimes wonder if any of them have had experiences with her similar to mine. I wonder if she told any stories that weren’t hers to tell, and tell them from a self-serving and uninformed perspective, with total disregard for the people involved.
For a long time, I struggled with this betrayal. I didn’t know if there was some kind of wisdom I needed to derive from it, or if it was a test of my resilience. Or maybe it was just one of those rotten things that happens sometimes and nothing more.
We had known each other for so long, and so well, yet I had never thought she would do something like that. It made me wonder if I had ever really known her at all.